The Law Society has provided guidance on Sharia law to assist Muslim clients with assets in England and Wales. It is possible to write an Islamic will and comply with the existing English law dating back to 1837.
Acting on the principle that it is better to welcome clients from diverse backgrounds, and to act in the best interest of clients, it must be positive that more Muslim clients make succession plans using their chosen solicitor.
The freedom to leave your assets to whomever you please is a well-established principle in English law, allowing you to leave your estate to first-born sons, beloved pets or your favourite charity. Therefore following the Sharia succession rules is not a marked aberration from such practice.
Making a Sharia-compliant will does not mean that clients avoid inheritance tax, or can somehow isolate themselves from the HMRC rules on residence and domicile. Indeed, if more clients can have access to balanced legal advice, then tax revenues may go up.
A Muslim client is free to set up a lifetime trust unless the settlor is on his or her death bed or suffering a terminal illness. The trust deed can simply specify whether or not it is Sharia-compliant.
It may be easy to score political points by using overblown hyperbole to warn against faith-based institutional misogyny. However, the ability to keep the windows of justice and access in England open, without impinging on people’s personal freedoms, dates back to the reign of Elizabeth I.
Update: The Law Society have withdrawn these guidelines following feedback from both the public and a number of Law Society members.